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The Eagles Overcame Every Obstacle to Win the NFC East

With a litany of injuries, Philly doesn’t look like a daunting playoff presence … but we’ve thought that before

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

In the third quarter of Sunday’s Giants-Eagles game, Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham tried to enter the blue medical tent, but there was a line. He went to the locker room instead. Nothing better summarizes the Eagles’ season—one that would have been defined by injuries but is now defined by #grit. Philadelphia clinched the NFC East title and a home playoff game in their 34-17 win against the Giants with contributions from a cast of characters who were unknowns even to Eagles fans a few weeks ago. Philadelphia entered Sunday’s must-win game without the following players, as Fox’s broadcast showed:

Fox

That is the team’s top four pass-catchers plus their two best pass-catching running backs, their best offensive lineman, and top two cornerbacks. In the first half, Philadelphia lost rookie running back Miles Sanders to an ankle injury and potential All-Pro guard Brandon Brooks to a shoulder injury. It didn’t matter. Quarterback Carson Wentz completed 23 of 40 passes for 289 yards (7.2 yards per attempt) and one touchdown with no turnovers. Here was the group Wentz was working with in this game:

  • Running back Boston Scott, a 5-foot-6 back drafted in the sixth round last year
  • Receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, a rookie second-rounder
  • Receiver Greg Ward Jr., who played in the AAF earlier this year
  • Receiver Deontay Burnett, an undrafted free agent signed to the Eagles practice squad less than three weeks ago and promoted to the active roster this weekend
  • Receiver Robert Davis, a 2017 sixth-rounder the Eagles promoted from the practice squad two weeks ago
  • Tight end Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia’s 2018 second-round pick
  • Tight end Richard Rodgers, whom Philadelphia signed this week
  • Tight end Josh Perkins, whom Philadelphia signed November 30

That ragtag group dominated on Sunday. Scott was the biggest hero of all, rushing 19 times for 54 yards and three touchdowns plus leading the team with 84 receiving yards on four catches. In October Scott was on the practice squad. On Sunday he looked better than Saquon Barkley.

Scott wasn’t the only hero. Goedert had four catches for 65 yards, including a beautiful catch along the sideline to gain 14 yards on third-and-8 late in the third quarter. Scott scored his first touchdown of the day three plays later.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Wentz found Burnett for 41 yards on first-and-20.

Wentz finishes the season with 4,039 passing yards, breaking the franchise’s single-season record set by Donovan McNabb in 2008. More impressive is that the Eagles are the first team in NFL history to have 4,000 yards passing but zero receivers with 500 yards receiving. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are the team’s top two targets, followed by Sanders.

When it came time to seal the game though, the Eagles stars were there. When Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones bobbled a snap in the fourth quarter, safety Malcolm Jenkins knocked it out of his hands, and All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox scooped the ball up and rolled just inches shy of the end zone to set up Scott’s second touchdown.

It’s the third year in a row a banged-up Eagles squad has made an improbable late-season run. Their 2017-18 Super Bowl team was defined by Nick Foles stepping in for Wentz, as well as injuries to left tackle Jason Peters and Sproles. Last year’s team was also injury riddled, and Foles led the Eagles to three consecutive wins to end the season to capture a wild-card spot, where they beat the Bears in Chicago. But this team’s late-season magic is a different kind of success. Rather than rallying around Foles’s mythical aura, the team has had a bunch of anonymous players step in for the team’s injured stars, and coach Doug Pederson has outcoached everyone in Philly’s way. If any team thinks they can beat Philly this year, they’ll have to get in line.